A singer par-excellence who is often called the Goleden-Voice of Bengal owed to her melodious voice and proficiency in various disciplines of music, Shrimati Sutapa Bhattacharya will be performing for the audience of Kolkata on February 1, 2014 in the concert Mehfil é Majestic Music presents “Sangeet Sutra” -A Music Troika and Sholoana Bangaliana caught up with her to know more about her musical journey and path ahead… Excerpts:
Sholoana Bangaliana: You had started singing for the All India Radio at the tender age of four and with this knowledge comes my first question… Music seems to be an inherited talent but at that tender age of four what encouraged you to dedicate your life and soul to music and how did the All India Radio Offer come by?
Sutapa Bhattacherjee: It is my privilege to inform you, what I heard from my ancestors, we are the fourth generation musician in our family. My grandfather could play five instruments like Esraj, Flute, Piano etc. and he was an All India Radio artist and music composer, so, since my birth, it was music all around me, my mother was a vocalist of Gwalior Gharana and father was a Patiala Gharana vocalist. So, since a very tender age, I was totally inclined to music.
At the age of four my father took me to Akashbani for a music audition for Shishu Mahal Program, which was broadcast those days on Sunday mornings. At the age of four years two months, I got the opportunity and still I remember, I sang, “Dur Deshi Sei Rakhal Chele” a Tagore song, and that was the curtain raiser for me in the world of music.
Sholoana Bangaliana: You belong to a family of musicians where each one of your family members is an expert in one or the other discipline of music but we would like to know who had the strongest influence on you…
Sutapa Bhattacherjee: The strongest influence on me was my parents soulful voice and the tonal quality, the way they used to sing, it attracted me so much, that, even though a little kid I wanted to take up singing and even did it passionately as I wanted to sing like them.
As you would also agree, at that tender age, for a child, his or her parents are everything, they are the heroes and they are the God, may be that was the reason I wanted to copy them.
Sholoana Bangaliana: You can sing verses from Kabir and Tulsidas as well as Western Classics and Modern Bengali songs with equal ease… What kind of training and from who bestowed you with this kind of proficiency?
Sutapa Bhattacherjee: Since childhood, I was fortunate to take music lessons from many gurus of different streams of Indian vocal music, like, Kirtan, Kheyal, Dhrupad, Thumri, Bhajan, Ghazal, Tagore songs, Nazrulgeeti & Modern Bengali songs and I am a very good listener and for me there is no bar to any form of music. I love to listen, in fact I am an ardent listener of all forms of music, even film music. I was always cautious though, that, the form of music I am performing, my gayaki or the throw of my voice should be in line. My listeners, at times get surprised, when they find me rendering the form of music in the same way that it may have been originally presented. Since childhood, I wanted to make my voice as beautiful as possible and that also has helped me a lot. Another one things I wanted to mention, if you have a good training in Dhrupad and Kheyal, then it becomes easy for you to have good control over all forms of music.
Sholoana Bangaliana: You have been praised by the music critics and media alike whenever you have performed for the audience… Can you point out any particular comment from an eminent musician the mere memory of which overwhelms you even today?
Sutapa Bhattacherjee: I am fortunate to get accolades from audience and music critics alike for my performance world wide, however, a very special moment in my life was when, in Quebec, Canada, we were performing for “World Beat” program of CNN, one of my co-performers was Bob Brozman, a celebrated guitarist of the U.S.A, as I was singing a bhatiyali song, “Sujon Re Sei Je Gela, Phira Aila Na”…suddenly I found Bob crying and we had to take a cut, as, Bob was unable to control himself and he caught my hand and said.. ”my sister you have a golden voice”.. Bob is no more, but even today, the memory of that moment overwhelms me.
Just to add one more special incident, in my first album release, Smt. Nirmala Mishra was an invited guest and before that, I never had any interaction with her, I was supposed to sing a song of the album with a track, but it was found, I carried the track cover (jewel box) with out the cd inside it. As no option was left, I was asked to sing the song adlib and after that performance of mine, my relation with Nirmala di has become like mother and daughter and that bond has grown stronger with every passing day.
Sholoana Bangaliana: Your music school Swar-O-Shruti has been in operation since 1991… What is the guiding principle of this institution and do you audition students before taking them under your tutelage or do you give everyone a chance to try and learn?
Sutapa Bhattacherjee: I believe that the first condition to be a good musician is to be a good human being. As you may agree, in this world of hypocrisy, which is all around us, we have a social responsibility to grow our next generation with good social and moral values. In Swar-O-Shruti too, we follow that. I always say, Swar-O-Shruti is not a meager music institution; it is a “manush gorar karkhana” means a factory to produce good human beings. I believe, Music is a science with a huge scientific influence, here, bio science, physics, nature, all have a co-existence and I try to make my students get a feel of this which creates an interest in them.
I believe music is a very special art and you should have some in born qualities, which can be honed further to develop you into a musician. You must agree, all of us, have some in born special talents, but everybody cannot become a good musician, or a good player or a good scientist. We should try to identify that special talent within us at a very young age and then hone that talent towards that direction, otherwise, you may try something for which you are not born for and by the time, you understand the same, it is already too late. So, in my institution too, I try to understand that special hidden talent.
Sholoana Bangaliana: You shall soon be performing with your siblings for the music lovers of Kolkata in the concert “Sangeet Sutra” – A Music Troika… What can the audience look forward to hear from you on February 1 in this concert?
Sutapa Bhattacherjee: This will be a very special performance of mine as we “Kolkatan Siblings” have performed in many countries but this is the first time we will be performing in Kolkata together. To speak about me, one of my key strengths is my versatility. I will render a bouquet of music for my audience, where they will get to enjoy my movement in many forms of Indian music. Let the remaining be secret, on the contrary, I will ask my audience to please come and enjoy the evening with us, and we are waiting to have a gala evening together with you.
Sholoana Bangaliana: Has Film music come your way yet… If not, given a chance what kind of playback singing would you prefer to say yes to?
Sutapa Bhattacherjee: Film music came my way, but that is not from Bengali film industry, I sang for Chattisgari Films. And as I have already said, I love music and I will be happy to sing any kind of songs for films, but if you categorically ask me, I am more attracted towards romantic songs.
Sholoana Bangaliana: Who is your favorite Music Composer in today’s Bengali Film Industry?
Sutapa Bhattacherjee: All of them are doing a great job, it will be difficult for me to choose anybody from them as I believe, in today’s Bengali Film Industry most of the Music Composers are very talented.
Sholoana Bangaliana: Apart from music, what else do you enjoy doing?
Sutapa Bhattacherjee: Other than music, when I am free, I love to spend time with my family and also to go out for a long drive.
Sholoana Bangaliana: Your message for the aspiring singers of today..
Sutapa Bhattacherjee: Always remember, there is no short cut, only hard work will pay you in the long run, otherwise you will not be able to sustain for a long time….